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Fiction: Legal Theft Project– Caring for her Father (518 words)

She almost didn’t answer the call. Jean knew the number by now, even though she had never saved it into her phone. She looked down at the number and for a moment, just a moment, thought that she just didn’t want to know. She didn’t want that added stress in this moment. She could wait, and find out what was wrong later.  

But just as fast as the thought came into her mind, it vanished.  She swiped the green button and pulled it up to her ear. “What’s the news now?”  

“Not good, Miss Strune,” Her Dad’s nurse replied, calling from the phone in his hospital room. Jean was always impressed how she managed to sounds just cheery enough to be reassuring, but professional enough to not give bad news in an annoyingly perky way like some of their previous nurses had been. Jean liked this nurse an awful lot. Maybe that was the reason that she really had answered the phone. “We’re having some pretty serious memory problems today. I’m sure that Mr. Strune would absolutely love a visit from you today to help him fill in some of the blanks if you have any time.”  

“Right,” Jean said slowly, “Well, tell him that I love him and that I’ll try to be by this afternoon.  Remind him that he really hated the place that Mom was staying before—that might help placate him for a little while until I can show up and be a bit more helpful.”  

“Thanks a lot, Miss Strune.  Sorry that I could have better news for you this morning.”  

“That’s alright, Jasmine. I know it’s not your fault.  I’ll see you this afternoon.” Jean waited for the click that meant she’d hung up. She never hung up first just in case there was something else that the nurse needed to tell her before the conversation ended.  Luckily, there was no more today.  

Jean chuckled to herself darkly. Luckily all she had to deal with today was the continuing degrading of her father’s mental state, to the point where he was slowly forgetting the years of his life further and further back.  

Jean looked at the work laid about before her. She had such lofty plans for what she could get done with her free time today. She should have known better than to try to have an all work day. It was like her dad could sense when she had a lot to do and saved his most spectacular breakdowns for those days.  

Jean took a deep breath and tried to bring her temper back down. She could be mad that all this shit was happening to her dad, no one would blame her for that. But getting mad at him, especially for things that weren’t actually his fault—that wasn’t going to help anyone at all.  

She was going to take a deep breath, spend some time properly enjoying her breakfast and keeping her mind in check, and then she would head over to the nursing home and try to figure out which ways she could help her dad today.  

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2017 in Legal Theft Project, Stories

 

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Fiction: Losses (530 words)

Edith sat on the edge of her bed. She was waiting for something that was never going to happen. There was no one coming home to her. Her father was gone. Her husband was gone. Her son was gone. Literally, everything that this war could take from her short of her own life–it had. She sat alone at the edge of her bed, watching her door as if one of them might come walking in any way.  And with each second that passed with no one there, her heart grew a little heavier.

She allowed herself exactly ten minutes that morning to sit there in blind grief, silent and afraid. Then she had to stand up and face the world again. She’d been sitting in silence and fear without noticing time passing since she was first brought her the news. She’d stay here forever if she didn’t press forward today. Those soldiers, her men, didn’t go off to fight for her to fall apart. They didn’t go out and die so that she could spend the rest of her time moping and wishing that they hadn’t gone to fight for her country and everything they believed was right and good.  She pulled herself to her feet, tied up her hair, and headed out into the living room.

Her neighbors looked up in surprise at her reappearing. “Edie, are you okay?” Her friend Marie asked, before wincing, “I mean, of course, you aren’t okay, but I mean–” Marie shook her head again and tried to offer Edith a sad smile. “What I’m trying to say is that we understand if you just want to have a quiet day today.”

“I don’t think that sitting alone in my room dwelling on my sadness is going to be much help to anyone,” Edith answered with a perk in her voice—it sounded terrible even to her own ears, but she wasn’t sure what else she might sound like if she tried. “Please, Marie, give me something to do. Don’t make sit in there alone.”  This desperate tone was no better at all—she almost preferred the overly cheery tone.  But it seemed to be exactly what Marie needed to hear from her.

“Of course, of course. Do you want to work on something small or something big today?” Marie asked gesturing to the other women in the room.

“Big, I think,” Edith answered quickly, so she wouldn’t have time to analyze the tone that her voice was taking now.

“Okay then. Talk to Eleanor,” Marie gestured to the oldest woman in the room, sitting near the fireplace, “She’ll give you something big, and keep you as busy as you want to be.” She reached out and took Edith’s hand, pulling her in closer so that Marie’s next words could only be heard by Edith. “But as soon as you need an out, go. No one here will fault you for leaving work undone for a while, okay? Don’t feel pressured to get it done.”

Edith nodded slightly at Marie. “Thank you. But—I need this.”

Marie nodded as well, and let go of Edith’s hand. “Go see Eleanor, She’ll get you set up.”

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2017 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Legal Theft Project–Family Changes (556 words)

The lock clicked in a different way when it was opened with a key.  It was a simple and steady motion as the key pushed the tumblers in place, rather than the slight hesitation between each pin. Even though Angel and Oliver had gotten pretty good at picking the lock on the front door—they weren’t as fast or smooth as the key, as Jennifer’s key.

The children all looked at each other, and then at the room around them. If Jennifer’s key was already in the lock it was too late to try to clean up or hide everything they had gotten up to since the last time that Jennifer had been home. Still, they all pulled themselves quickly to their feet, trying to pull their clothes as straight as possible and tying their hair back as tightly as they could, to put up some level of present-ability.

Jennifer came in, turned the lock the door quickly behind her, before turning to smile at the line of children in a sharp row. Her smile only faltered a little as she looked around at the various art projects and destruction of small electronics and what looked to be a small failed chemical experiment in one of the corners. “We’ve been busy while I was away, haven’t we?” she said weakly, turning from the mess back to the six children in front of her.

“Yes Ma’am,” they all answered in unison, each trying to figure out in their own ways just how mad Jennifer actually was.

Jennifer made a show of counting the six of them slowly and pointedly. “Six, all under eleven summers old. We appear to be missing those two who were supposed to be taking care of you all.”

The six children all shifted back and forth on their feet before Margaret—the oldest and bravest of the little ones—spoke up. “They left a couple hours ago,” She informed Jennifer in a clean soprano, “They went out. Together.”

There was a lot of giggling behind hands now. Jennifer crossed her arms over her chest. “What’s all this now?” she asked in her slightly stern voice.

“I saw them,” Benjamin—the youngest, four summers old Jennifer guessed, “They were…kissing.” He whispered the last word as if it was a swear, and the other five children burst into giggles.

Jennifer sighed. It was only a matter of time. Her son Oliver had developed a crush on Angel all those years ago when she first came to stay with their family—the first of the little orphans Jennifer couldn’t help but bring into her home when she found them alone on the streets. She didn’t care if they were together as long as they were both happy. But she did care an awful lot about them neglecting their duties to be together.

“Very well.  What’s say we get to cleaning this place up right now, and I’ll have a talk with Oliver and Angel later, yes?”

“Yes Ma’am,” They call chorused again, before heading away to start the cleaning process following their well-practiced routines. Jennifer pinched the bridge of her nose almost unconsciously, before sighing. It was bad enough now that just the two of them were teenagers. What in the world was she going to do when the six little ones were teenagers too?

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2017 in Legal Theft Project, Stories

 

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Fiction: Heartbroken [Part 4/4] (99 words)

He is gone. And I know that I can’t know he was a he, because ten weeks is too early to know, but he’s gone. It’s why they advised us not to tell anyone until after the twelve-week mark, because of the higher chance. My husband is right—this was only our first try and we’re young and healthy, and we can always try again. But that doesn’t change the fact that this one is gone. He’s gone, and I have never felt so empty in my entire life.  I don’t know how I’m going to get past this.

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2017 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Legal Theft– The Truth (812 words)

“Hey, AM.”

Marta looked up from the book she was reading cross legged on her bed to see Arthur—now sixteen years old and taller than both her and her sister, leaning against the doorframe to her room. He looked conflicted, and Marta wondered if he was going to try to pull that Since you’re my real mother can you tell Mom to let me… crap again. “Hey-o Kiddo, what’s up?”

“I wanted to ask you a question. Mom says I shouldn’t ask it, but—I don’t know. I kind of feel like I have to.”  Marta furrowed her eyebrows and considered him.

Technically, yes, he was her son, but Marta had never had that easy understanding of him that Avery did. They were a perfect case study of a genetic connection versus sixteen years of love, care, and direct devotion. That’s why he never got away with any of that real mother crap. They all knew that Avery was his mother, no ifs ands or buts.

“Yeah. Come in. You know you can ask me anything.”  Arthur crossed the room in two long strides, sitting himself down in Marta’s computer chair, spinning it so he faced the bed.  He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees, and Marta started to be able to see just how really worried he was. “Kiddo, what’s wrong?”

“I want—um—it’s just,” Arthur took a deep breath. “Mom says that you won’t tell me no matter what, and that I shouldn’t even ask because it will just upset you, but it’s not just that I want to ask, I feel like I need to ask whether you answer me or not I’ll go crazy if I don’t ask.” All the words came spilling out of his mouth in rush, like if he paused he would lose his nerve.

Marta was starting feel anxious now. She knew that this moment was going to come eventually, but the older and older Arthur got, she started to believe that she was going to manage avoid it. “What did you want to ask me, then?”

“I wanted to know,” Arthur smiled weakly at her, “Do you know who my father is?”

Marta smiled wildly, “Of course Kiddo. You do, too. Tall guy, dark hair, sometimes talks in an annoying accent, always looks at your Mom with those sappy eyes that makes us want to gag.”

Arthur shook his head, looking down at his feet. “No, A.M., I know who my Dad is. Obviously, Dad is my Dad, but—who is my father, I mean, my biological father?”

Marta’s smiled faded away now. “I do, Arthur. I’ve never had a doubt about who your biological father is. But—The truth of the matter is, Kiddo, he wanted nothing to do with us. He called me a whore, telling me that I’d probably had sex with so many men I couldn’t be sure it was his, and then offered me four hundred dollars to never talk to him about it again. I didn’t take his money, but I never spoke to him again. And I never spoke about him again until now. If you really feel that you must know, that your life cannot be complete without knowing his name, then I will tell you, and only you, on the condition that you never tell Avery or Bradley, because they are both still Very angry about things that happened around the time you were born, but I’m telling you now—your Mom and Dad are better than that boy I ever could have done raising you, and I’ve always believed it’s not worth wasting time on people who aren’t willing to give their time to you, so…”

Marta had spoken a lot faster than she met to.  Perhaps Arthur’s rushed speaking from earlier was a family trait. He looked a bit stunned. She realized she’d never been so stern with him, and he never saw her properly angry, like she got whenever she thought about that stupid teenage boy who had insulted her character for a mistake that was equal parts both of their fault. It did take two to tango, as the cliché said.

“I don’t want to talk to him. I don’t want anyone in my life who doesn’t want to be in mine. But—I was going through Mom’s year book the other day and I looked at every single face to see if there were traits of mine. I need to know his name so I can stop wondering. I think I deserve that.” Arthur answered.

“It’s a secret you will have to keep from your Mom and Dad.  Until you die or I die, whichever comes first, you understand?” Marta insisted.

“Yes, I promise,” Arthur insisted, leaning a little bit closer.

“Okay,” Marta smiled, “Yeah. Okay. Then I’ll tell you who your biological father is.”

 

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Fiction: Team (518 words)

“I do not like you.” Amelia was quick to make sure that he knew where he was in her opinion right from the start. She didn’t want there to be any confusion that her agreement to here and to help had at all changed her thoughts about him.

Evan nodded like he had expected as much, with that condescending look that set Amelia’s hair on edge and brought out the worst of her temper.  “You don’t have to like me. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of you. But Lindsey wanted us to work together. Because of that, our dislike for each other has to stay between us.”

“I know,” Amelia snapped at him quickly, before taking a deep breath. She continued in a much more civil tone, biting down on her temper as hard as she could. “I mean, I know. We have to act as a united front for Donald. It’s what Lindsey would have wanted.”

Almost subconsciously, they both turned just slightly to look at the silver urn on the fireplace, carved with a rose, next to a picture of the most important woman in both of their lives, Amelia’s sister and Evan’s wife.  Amelia felt the temper drain right out of her. Lindsey would hate to see her like this. She really had to work on that whole being the person my sister would want me to be promise she had made herself at Lindsey’s funeral.

“We are all he has now,” Evan said quietly. “We can’t pull him apart by trying to turn him against each other. That’s not fair.”

“I promise,” Amelia said quickly. When Lindsey had been alive, Amelia had never hesitated to make her distain for Lindsey’s husband known. Evan had always treated her civilly, even kindly, in spite of how Amelia acted to him. If he ever spoke bad of her it was in private. If anyone had to make the commitment to change, it was going to be here. “I promise, that from here on out any complaints I have of you will only be made in private to my friends when Donald is not with me, or to you directly if it is a concern with our—working relationship for a lack of a better word—when we can discuss it civilly with Donald being aware.”

For a second, Evan looked like he was sucking on a lemon, but his face returned to a neutral expression as he nodded. “Okay. I will promise the same. From here on out, we are a team.”

Only by thinking of Lindsey watching her, could Amelia stomach the thought of being on a team with him. Only by focusing on her love for her little nephew, Amelia swallowed down the bitter taste in her mouth and repeated back. “From here on out, we are a team.”

“Good,” Evan nodded, even managing to smile at her. “So. Let’s discuss the weekly schedule, shall we?”

Evan pulled a cleanly printed booklet out of his bag, labeled “Donald’s Weekly School/Play Schedule” on the front, and Amelia tried very hard not to scream.

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2017 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Open for Business (519 words)

She couldn’t believe it had finally come to this. All those years of patience, of working hard, of dealing kindly to people and not letting people take advantage of her—she was finally here.

She stood in the middle of her own business. This was her store. She owned it. Other’s had helped of course, and she had investors that she had to do right by in the long run, but this was her store. Hers. No one else’s.

She let out a laugh and wrapped her arms around herself in a self-hug.

“Are you going crazy?” She turned fast to see her father standing in the doorway between the store part and the “employees only” section. “Because I would really hate to have you committed right before your big day. It would be such a tragedy. I’d be on the news saying ‘She came so close to her dream only to fall at the finishing line.’” He shook his head in mock disappointment.

“Oh, shush. Let me enjoy this moment.” She laughed again. He smiled widely at her.

“Of course, love, of course. You deserve this.” He crossed to the middle of the room and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “I am so proud of you. You know that, right?”

“I had a hint when you said ‘I am so proud of you’ about a dozen times today.” She laughed, letting herself be pulled into his side.

“Well, I am super proud,” He countered, “At least a dozen times a dozen proud. And I need to make sure you know it.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. Thanks, Dad.”

The silence drew on for a while, before her dad continued in a soft voice, “Your mom would be proud too, you know.”

She froze on the spot for a second.  Her Dad never mentioned her mom when he could help it, and since she was so young when her mother died, she tended to follow his lead. Her grandparents had taught her all about her mother, and what kind of woman she had been, and who she would want her daughter to be—but her dad always stayed quiet. Obviously, they never talked about it, but she’d always just assumed it was a grief thing. How he managed to cope.

“She would have been,” he repeated, gaining a bit more strength in his voice now. “She would be so proud of the fact that you got here, and that you got here by your own strength instead of cheating and scheming and she would be so proud that you believe in yourself.” He took a deep breath, like he’d just sprinted to get through that. “I think that you are going to be successful here, because I think she’ll be watching over you.”

She swallowed hard a few times, trying to get the knot her in throat small enough to talk around. “Thank you, Dad. Thank you for saying that.”

He gave her a squeeze around the shoulders. “Sure thing, Kiddo. Let’s go home. We need as much sleep as we can get before our big day tomorrow.”

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2017 in Stories

 

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